From A Distance.

From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man

From a distance we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed…

As a little girl I used to travel to my country primary school on a bus driven by Mr Daly. Mr Daly was our local mechanic who also doubled as a bus driver. He was a nice man who was very sweet to ‘pre teen me’ dressed in a pink jumper teamed with pink corduroys and desert boots on my feet. Each morning I would climb onto the bus and take my seat just behind Mr Daly. Once settled, I’d adjust my headphones before pressing ‘play’ on hits by any given songstress, with Bette Midler being a favourite. I’d sing along to songs such as ‘From a Distance’ as I madly worked on my tapestry for the duration of my trip to school.

No tea towel, shirt sleeve, pillow case or bath towel were safe from my needle and thread and, by the age of about eleven, I had mastered the perfect rosebud and bunch of flowers, stitched furiously by me as I listened to songs on my Walkman.

‘From a Distance’ was written by HBO secretary Julie Gold who believed in an immanent and beneficent God, and she always said that people should interpret the song any way they want – as with all art. Perfect for me who was quite often outside the classroom when I was a child – usually as punishment for asking my teacher why God didn’t fall out of the sky?

On sunny mornings in the late eighties, at the very same time Bette Midler had taken over from Julie and turned my favourite song a hit, my school bus would pull in at the school gate just as I was belting out the chorus of their hit – ‘God is Watching US! God is watching US! God is watching uuussss… From a distance…’. Packing my needle, thread and tapestry ring into my handmade, monogrammed calico sewing bag whilst bracing myself for a day with the boys in my class – most of them sons of dairy farmers – I’d almost thread a tapestry needle through my finger with enthusiasm for the boys, my stitching project, and my self proclaimed ‘ability’ to sing.

Albeit dressed in pink corduroys, a pink jumper and desert boots teamed with a haircut styled around a pudding basin.

I’ve always rather loved this song whose lyrics speak of a world viewed from a distance, and which spells out the difference of how things appear as opposed to how they really are.

During our lockdown I’ve revisited my eleven year old self and have started to sew again.

On a borrowed Singer machine from a favourite Tangier friend, I’ve found myself sewing masks lovingly created from the ends of leftover fabrics from my kitchen curtains, along with cut offs of pure Egyptian cotton sourced on the edge of the Nile on a trip to Egypt last year.

Ends of a pink dress made from Egyptian cotton (a dress normally teamed with a navy blue velvet Alice band and busted out at a cocktail party) are worn on my face in a pleated design, rouged at each side and pulled for effect with a double edged hem stitched tight along white elastic, and neatly tucked behind my COVID19 era lockdown ears.

My neighbour stopped me in the lift the other day (on about day 12 of Ramadan) and began waving her finger at me as she spoke in agressive Arabic. Oh dear I thought, do I smell like food? Can she tell I’ve had water and I’m not fasting. Is my morning coffee spilling out of my every pore? Oh heck, I’m so ‘haram’ right now I concluded as I stepped out of the lift. She smiled as she sailed up one more floor to the top of our building demanding ‘Masque, afek joj en noir’.

Ah, I sighed, she wants two masks, both in black.

So, from the ends of a long dress fashioned from a Moroccan d’jellaba and stitched by my tailor this time last year, I found myself sewing a mask for my neighbour in the darkest navy blue, almost black. For her daughter, I pleated and stitched together the ends of my kitchen curtains in baby pink with happy little pieces of elastic loosely tied through the pleats.

Just before the mad rush that is shopping for l’ftour and the hours that follow, I ran upstairs one day this week to deliver my creations to my neighbour. ‘Pour toi,’ I said proudly as she grabbed them from my hands, hurriedly asking ‘combien?’.

‘Lah, hada cadeau dyal Ramadan’ (no money, this is a present for Ramadan).

Her pretty face lit up – from a distance, as I stood awkwardly on the landing outside her door. We’ve always rather liked each other and her children, guided by their father, often deliver Friday cous cous to my flat. But this day was different.

Bette’s word were more profound than ever when I played them at full strength (thirty years post Walkman and pink corduroys) as I settled in at my kitchen desk following my rendezvous with my neighbour.

From a distance we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed…

All of the above is real. No matter where you sit in 2020.

I saw a tapestry ring in a shop today and I asked the man to put it aside for me. I know I will go and buy it tomorrow as I further engage my eleven year old self with my Walkman playing songs (now replaced by the radio), safe in the knowledge that from a distance, we all have enough.

Even if it is a mask made from the ends of a kitchen curtain.

Press play:

Pictured: Tangier, on my trip to the shops today.

6 thoughts on “From A Distance.

  1. Pin,
    You have the ability to bring my own memories back as I read yours!
    Corduroy pants,desert boots ( which I can still smell the scent of the newness of them, which I loved) calico sewing bags etc etc…
    Thank you , I love that song also. From now on I will always think of your perception including God calling out of the sky.
    Thank you for sharing, you really are a joy

  2. Thanks Pin for reviving this great song and lyrics – it resonates in my memory too. Can picture Minjah’s little elfin Affleck child in her pink cords singing to the clouds above and trundling along in the school bus 🚌 . Wonderful that you are doing sewing and tapestry to create face mask fashion. Love your Tangier business creative, will enjoy trawling your website and stock to order something special. Lots love xx

  3. Yes this current crisis has brought us all back to basics. And I’ve always loved Bette Midler and her lyrics certainly ring true in this classic song ..keep up the craft work, good for the mind and the soul. I can picture you off on those school days from yesteryear, seems like just several years ago. Take care, play safe and stay healthy. Lots O’ Love Sal XXX

  4. I can’t bear that song but I absolutely love your words her, pin… the images of childhood here are magic… and the simple things… the bus driver… the Walkman… pink

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